HPE Cloud Volumes and Multi-Cloud

I recently attended a briefing from HPE on Cloud Volumes. Cloud Volumes is a technology that already existed within the Nimble portfolio before the HPE acquisition. 2 years on from becoming part of HPE what exactly is Cloud Volumes? What is it  useful for and how does it fit within HPE storage and cloud strategy?

You bring the compute, I’ll bring the storage

barbecue

I love a barbecue party with a group of friends, especially when everyone brings a bit of their own food. You never know what you’re going to get and hopefully you end up with a better mix of food than if you provide it all yourself. I always bring the crisps because it’s easy.

HPE Cloud Volumes  offers  to bring block storage to the cloud party, with the compute being provided by one of the major cloud providers; Google, AWS or Azure. We will deal with the full process in detail later, but in short you create a Cloud Volumes account through a web portal, create the VM with the cloud provider, then select HPE Cloud Volumes as the disk target.

HPE provides the storage by either co-locating or locating very near to the cloud hyperscalers data centres in order to minimise latency. The HPE data centres contain HPE Nimble storage arrays which provides the underlying storage presented through to Cloud Volumes. HPE use their own InfoSight system to ensure availability, capacity and scale are met through its predictive analytics system.

There is a choice between all flash or hybrid disks, both of which are able to offer the same level of IOPS. But the IOPS guarantee differs between them, 95% percent for hybrid and 99% for flash. Cloud Volumes is available globally but the guarantee will only exist in regions where HPE data centres exist.

Why?

The first question many people have is why don’t I just use the storage natively available from the cloud provider? Cloud Volumes was initially born out of the desire to provide block storage to more traditional applications. Many cloud native apps were designed to take advantage of cloud storage such as using object based S3 or Glacier for archive. Those born in the cloud type apps would receive little benefit from Cloud Volumes. Although container based applications can take advantage of the persistent storage offered by Cloud Volumes. Currently Docker, Kubernetes and Mesosphere are supported.

Traditional applications such as Oracle and SQL grew up in an on-premises environment traditionally based on block storage. Cloud Volumes was initially designed to provide the availability performance and features these applications require.  It’s fair to say Cloud Volumes has evolved since the initial vision to be a more complete offering for an enterprise’s cloud strategy. Let’s look at some of the ways HPE envisage this:

Data mobility

Cloud lock-in is a concern of many companies. Cloud providers do not natively provide the tools to easily move data to another provider. Plus there is the challenge of data gravity, it is a physical challenge to move large volumes of data this can make operating a multi-cloud strategy a challenge.

With Cloud Volumes, since your compute and storage are provided separately, the compute provider can easily be changed.  It is just a case of spinning up a new VM and pointing it back at the Cloud Volume. This data mobility allows the right data to be in the right place at the right time and allows these changes to be made on the fly.  This ability to provision storage to multiple destinations on the fly could facilitate cloud bursting, allowing for peaks in demand.

Cloud migration

All Nimble systems natively support replication to Cloud Volumes. This allows for a very simple method for cloud migration and the ability to bring back on prem if necessary.

Cost

One of the barriers to data movement with the current cloud providers is cost, where there are egress charges to pay for pulling data back from a cloud provider. HPE has no cost associated with any movement of data, be that to the cloud, back from the cloud or indeed to completely exit the service.

Data services

Cloud Volumes is able to provide instant snapshots and clones. It uses snapshot technology which only records changed blocks, so you are able to store a large number of clones and snapshots whilst only paying for the changed data.

Secure 256-bit AES encryption is also available.

DR and test/dev

Cloud Volumes could easily be integrated within DR or test/dev solution.  Snapshots taken on site can be replicated to the cloud for further testing or DR availability.

Visibility

InfoSight is able to track and monitor not only your local Nimble arrays but also Cloud Volumes. Allowing a simple single place to predict and manage storage

Cloud Volumes Walkthrough

Setting up a Cloud Volume is a  two-step process, firstly create the Cloud Volume then secondly attach it to a VM.  Let’s take a look at the process:

Creating a Cloud Volume 

  • Open the Cloud volumes website
  • Choose to create a new cloud volume then you need to run through a few settings:

create cloud volume 1

    • Cloud provider –  choose cloud provider, region and cloud network
    • Volume settings – name the volume, choose the required size, performance in terms of IOPS and hybrid or flash
    • Protection – Select to enable a snapshot schedule or encryption

create cloud volume 2

Attach to a VM

  • In the Cloud volumes website choose to attach to a VM.  This will then bring up a script you can copy
  • In the cloud VM run the script and this will complete all the operations to attach the Cloud Volume to the VM for you

cloud volumes connection script

Once the volume is attached you would treat like any other kind of new disk and would proceed to bring it online and format it etc

Take a look at this complete walk through video

Final Thoughts

Today Cloud Volumes provides an interesting data services and data mobility play which could offer organisations with a hybrid cloud or multi cloud policy greater flexibility.  Using native cloud storage requires organisations to go “all in” committing data with a given cloud provider due to the pull of data gravity. Cloud Volumes removes that major decision point of where data is stored since it can be easily re-targeted, be that due to a change in cloud provider or simply an operational need i.e. cloud bursting or testing.

HPE continue to evolve from a product company to a solutions provider. In isolation Cloud Volumes is an interesting product, greater integration with the rest of the portfolio and predictive analytics which makes data placement recommendations could allow for a complete storage management strategy. Let’s see how this evolves.

Sponsored post – opinions are my own

HPE Primera

HPE Discover – Multiple new storage systems unveiled

Today at HPE Discover a large number of storage announcements where made, including some new product lines.

HPE Primera

HPE Primera

This is a brand new storage system from HPE aimed at the high end. I asked the product manager about the heritage of the system, if it was 3PAR or Nimble based and they advised that it was a new from the ground up system combining the best of both. Primera starts in a two node configuration available as all flash and hybrid, it can scale to 4 nodes capable of delivering 1.5 million IOPs. The influence from the 3PAR and Nimble family is obvious in the feature set and key capabilities being marketed.

Like 3PAR today the Primera system is based on an active active design with all data striped across all components in order to maximise performance and resiliency.

InfoSight

InfoSight which was originally developed by Nimble is used extensively in conjunction with Primera. InfoSight is described by HPE as providing global intelligence “Powered with the most advanced AI for infrastructure”.  This is essentially describing that InfoSight will be gathering data from the entire install base and using machine learning to identify any potential issues or improvements and inform users.  HPE estimate that 90% of issues are non-storage related, InfoSight is able to discover potential issues beyond the storage layer to enable a complete wrap around to infrastructure services.

HPE Primera features

Primera is powered by a modular OS which means that software components of the system are decoup.  Today planning an upgrade to a storage system is a major undertaking with an all or nothing decision of either do or don’t upgrade.  The new modular design has decoupled data services allowing individual services to be updated. This new design should allow safer updates with fewer reboots and allow a more agile route to updates and deployment which should in turn enhance innovation and willingness to apply updates.

Possibly the most surprising aspect of the new system is that HPE are guaranteeing 100% availability.  This guarantee is available on all Primera systems without qualification, it seems this is enabled not only by HPE’s confidence in the new system but again because of the Intelligence that InfoSight will give them. This will ensure that customers systems are configured are correctly , any issues are remediated before they occur and if appropriate fixes rolled out to other customers.  Primera has been developed to be simple even though it is an advanced high end system with time to deployment estimated at 20 minutes.

SimpliVity Updates

The SimpliVity hyper-converged platform received some new models and enhancements also

  • InfoSight – Now works with SimpliVity. Similar to other implementations this make proactive health recommendations and other insights beyond the storage layer for example into noisy VMs
  • Archive node – This is a new 2U hardware offering that contains a mixture of HD and SSD disks. The node is intended as the name suggests for longer term storage
  • SimpliVity 325 – This is a new model in the range that takes on a 1U form factor. This dense format is intended for environments where space is at a premium

Nimble Storage dHCI

This is again a brand new system from HPE, it is a Hyper-converged product that enables you to scale storage and compute separately. The system is designed for simplicity in 5 clicks the entire stack is setup and ready for vCenter.

Simplicity of HCI flexibility of converged

I think this latest batch of updates show a significant engineering effort and understanding towards the requirements of todays datacentre customers who want flexibility, simplicity and performance.

Stay tuned for more information on the new announcements. Any questions let me know and I will try to find out the answer.

Further Reading

Primera – HPE Storage Blog

HPE Storage dHCI – HPE Storage Blog

Meet HPE Primera

Video – Primera Chalk Talk

Looking inside the HPE Primera array’s internals

3PAR storage class memory Intel Optane

Discover Storage News Wrap Up

Last week at HPE Discover there was a series of storage announcements for the 3PAR and Nimble platform plus more. In this post we will run through the announcements.

Storage Class Memory

3PAR storage class memory Intel Optane

Storage class memory has been announced for 3PAR and Nimble. Storage Class Memory memory (SCM) was intended to bridge the gap between DRAM and NAND flash found in current generation SSD’s. DRAM is fast memory but does not scale and is expensive, NAND flash does scale but does not deliver the same performance. Intel have developed their Optane product which sits in this middle ground of performance and cost between SSD and NAND flash.

The Intel Optane device will be NVMe connected and act as an extension to the onboard controller cache. Other vendors such as Pure have added NVMe drives into the system but HPE have focused on adding the NVMe storage within the controller as they believe that the key bottleneck in flash systems is at the controller level and not disk. The additional cache creates quicker response times and also reduces the  load on back end disks as the amount of IO served served here is reduced. Phillip Sellers has written an in-depth piece looking at the addition of SCM to Nimble and 3PAR.

InfoSight

There was a number of announcements around the InfoSight platform.  First up was 3PAR performance insights which allows a performance view of not only your storage but also the VMware layer. We’ve discussed this in detail previously including how to implement it, but in short this is free for customers and allows deep insights into your VMware environment such as being able to find VMs with the highest resource utilisation.

The Nimble storage platform also benefited from a couple of InfoSight enhancements. Nimble Resource planner allows load modelling. As a storage admin I really like the sound of this as so often we don’t know what the impact of an additional workload will be until it’s deployed. The modelling software predicts the impact both in terms of performance and capacity, below is an example of running through this

Choosing workload to model

Nimble resource planner1

Impact on capacity is modelled 

Nimble resource planner 2

Also modelled is the impact on CPU and cache

Nimble resource planner 4

Nimble cross stack analytics brings enhancements to the performance recommendations already delivered by InfoSight. The focus of this new feature is bring specific AI driven recommendations to the environment. An example of the type of recommendation is shown in the screenshot below

Nimble cross stack analytics

The InfoSight product is still owned by the storage segment of HPE but its expansion into other products is continuing at a pace. One of HPE’s key objective is to deliver a cloud like experience and make things consumable as services. InfoSight is a key part of this strategy ensuring uptime and proactive recommendations to the environment to eliminate issues before they occur.

You can see a summary of the InfoSight announcements in this chalk talk

Nimble Peer Persistence

Synchronous replication was added as a feature to the Nimble storage platform. The feature is being called Peer Persistence since HPE are also introducing support for metro clusters at the same time. I have covered Peer Persistence in-depth previously for 3PAR, it essentially allows for the creation of stretched cluster across geographically separate data centres. The Nimble implementation of Peer Persistence will initially support metro clusters for SQL and VMware.

Cloud Volumes Enhancements

Nimble Cloud Volumes were announced a couple of years ago. These cloud volumes offer block storage with the maturity and depth of services you would expect to see on premise for cloud. Announced this time round was the support of containerized workloads using both Docker and Kubernetes.  Also announced was extended regional support so cloud volumes will be available for the UK and Ireland in 2019.

Cohesity

HPE have also enhanced their relationship with secondary data platform Cohesity. Cohesity is available bundled with Proliant Gen10 servers through HPE partners.  These validated Cohesity and HPE bundles have added support for HPE Apollo and HPE DL380 servers

You can see a further summary of announcements in this blog post from Calvin Zito